Monday, August 27, 2007
Help, I'm stepping into the Twilight Zone, place is a madhouse, feels like being cloned.
8/27/2007 12:44:44 PM President Bush reacted with unusual candor Monday to the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
“It is sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons,” Bush said at a press conference in Crawford, Texas.
The President praised Gonzales for his “integrity, decency and principle.” He added that in his two and a half years as attorney general, Gonzales “has played a critical role in shaping our policies and the war on terror and has worked tirelessly to make this country safer.”
The two men have shared a close personal and professional relationship since 1995, when as Texas governor Bush requested Gonzales to be his general counsel. Like his professional and personal friendship with Karl Rove, Bush said of Gonzales “In the long course of our work together, this trusted advisor became a close friend.” Bush acknowledged the effects of the controversy surrounding Gonzales, citing “months of unfair treatment” that resulted in “a harmful distraction at the justice department.”
Gonzales is the latest in a series of Bush loyalists forced to resign amid controversial circumstances. The casualties include chief political strategist Karl Rove, White House counselor Dan Bartlett, budget director Rob Portman, chief White House attorney Harriet Miers, political director Sara Taylor, deputy national security advisers J.D. Crouch and Meghan O'Sullivan and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Bush's poll numbers hit record lows in 2007, with his approval rating hovering around 30 percent.
Embattled U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales informed the President of his decision to resign late Sunday, capping a bitter fight with congressional Democrats amid allegations he perjured himself in testimony before Congress on President Bush's domestic wiretapping program.President Bush, who stood by Gonzales through a series of controversies, accepted Gonzales' resignation Friday and is expected to nominate Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to fill the vacancy left by his longtime friend and legal adviser, according to senior White House officials.
"Yesterday, I met with President Bush and informed him of my decision to conclude my government services as Attorney General of the United States effective September 17," Gonzales said in a brief statement Monday morning.Gonzales, 51, who withstood months-long controversy over the firings of eight federal prosecutors for what critics charged were politically motivated reasons, had resisted calls for his resignation from Democrats and some Republicans, including Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. While Gonzales said he might have mishandled the U.S. attorney firings, the former Texas Supreme Court justice maintained the ousters were in no way politically motivated to influence federal investigations involving lawmakers.
But tensions between Gonzales and Democratic leaders in Congress boiled over after Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and discrepancies emerged between what Gonzales and an intelligence official said about the National Security Agency's then-classified warrantless surveillance program.
In congressional testimony, Gonzales said the purpose of a March 10, 2004 White House briefing was to address "intelligence activities" that were the subject of a legal dispute inside the Bush administration, and not called over the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program.
However, a letter sent to Congress in May 2006 by then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte described the congressional meeting as a "briefing on the Terrorist Surveillance Program," the name that President Bush has publicly used to refer to the program.
Trying to clear up the misunderstanding with the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales sent a two-page letter to the Committee confirming that there was a dispute between the Justice Department and the White House in March 2004, but conceded he was not clear in his explanations.
"I recognize that the use of the term Terrorist Surveillance Program and my shorthand reference to the 'program' publicly 'described by the president' may have created confusion, particularly for those who are knowledgeable about the N.S.A. activities authorized in the presidential order," Gonzales wrote.
He added that the confusion might have been most intense among those "who may be accustomed to thinking of them or referring to them together as a single N.S.A. program." Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Judiciary committee, said Gonzales' resignation "reinforces what Congress and the American people already know — that no Justice Department should be allowed to become a political arm of the White House, whether occupied by a Republican or a Democrat."
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., also a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and ardent critic of Gonzales, said the attorney general had done "the right thing" by resigning.
"The Justice Department has been virtually nonfunctional and desperately needs new leadership. Democrats will not obstruct or impede a nominee who we are confident will put the rule of law above political considerations," Schumer said.